By Paula Escalada Medrano
PUEBLA, Mexico – With astonishment and curiosity, the residents of this central Mexican city are watching 35 pink taxis – driven by female cabbies and picking up only women as customers – travel back and forth on local streets.
“The people stop us on the street to congratulate us and the women ask us how they can request one of our units,” Lidia Hernandez, one of the cabbies with Pink Taxis, a company that says it’s the first of its kind in Mexico, told Efe on Monday.
Minutes after speaking those words, with her vehicle stopped on Puebla’s main plaza, a woman came up and congratulated her, saying: “It’s a fantastic initiative. I hope there are more (taxis) soon.”
Fears about safety – in certain zones of Mexico – has spurred people to begin offering transportation services just for women to avoid inconvenience, harm of one sort or another or, in some cases, even physical abuse of women by male taxi drivers.
In Mexico City, since last year there have existed buses just for women but Metro cars specifically reserved for women in rush hour have existed for quite some time.
Currently, the municipal transportation office in Puebla has invested a total of 5.6 million pesos ($430,000) in the project.
“All the cars are equipped with a GPS locating system, with a panic button (connected to the emergency operator) and they have bank terminals to avoid the use of cash and provide more security,” Eduardo del Castillo, the head of Pink Taxis, said.
The women-only taxis operate and charge just like regular taxis, although in the future it’s calculated that they could cost about 10 percent more than traditional cabs.
They only differ from the rest of the public transportation services in that men are prohibited from boarding them and they only pick up women and children.
In addition to safety, the Pink Taxis are outfitted so that women feel comfortable on board.
“All the taxis have a mirror in front of the back seat in which they can adjust their makeup and in the future, we’re studying putting other items for feminine use in them,” said Humberto Vargas, the Pink Taxis marketing director.
“In Colombia they use (female-only taxis) for security and in Arab countries like Dubai for cultural reasons because a woman cannot get into a car with a man who is not her husband,” he said.
Given that there are at present an insufficient number of female-only taxis in Puebla, local authorities had to train additional female drivers.
“They learned how to change a tire, how to check the engine, as well as basic first aid knowledge,” Vargas explained.
“There are some men who insult us, above all the taxi drivers and public transport drivers when we change lanes, but some others also give us flattering comments,” said driver Matilde Gonzalez, who had never worked as a taxi driver before she got her current job.
“Many men think that we drive badly and they say things like ‘a woman at the wheel is a constant danger,’ but there are men who drive worse than we do and now we’re going to prove it,” she said.
“A woman (driver) feels happy when, for example, mothers tell us that they are more certain that a woman will bring their daughters home when they go out at night to have fun,” Gonzalez said. EFE